Ranking Big Sky Basketball Arenas

The University of Idaho has a new stunning arena on campus. It is the campuses first basketball-specific facility in the University’s 132 year history. It was built with wood from the University’s experimental forest on Moscow Mountain and utilized only in-state timber and wood companies to complete its construction.

The final product is beautiful. But where does it rank in the Big Sky Conference? Hell, where does it rank out west? Former Athletic Director Rob Spear was convinced we were passed over for the Mountain West in 2013 was not football, but rather our lack of a basketball facility. Playing almost all of our non-conference games in a gym that is a memorial to the first world war and later moving into a football facility that tried to be an intimate basketball setting, and simply fell short more than it succeeded.

Did we just build something to get in the game? or did we build something special! To raise the bar! To be the envy of many!

Lets start by ranking all 11 basketball arenas in the Big Sky Conference.

11. Hornets Nest | Sacramento State

Built: 1955 Capacity: 1,012

10. Walkup Skydome | Northern Arizona

Built:1975 Renovated: 2011 Capacity: 16,230

T8. Brick Breeden Fieldhouse | Montana State

Built: 1957 Renovated 1998, 2013 Capacity:8,455

T8. Reed Gym | Idaho State

Built: 1951 Renovated: 2002,2010 Capacity:3,214

T6. Bank of Colorado Arena | Northern Colorado

Built 1974 Renovated 2006, 2011 Capacity: 2,992

T6. Reese Court | Eastern Washington

Built: 1975 Capacity: 6,000

5. America First Event Center | Southern Utah

Built: 1985 Capacity 5,300

4. Dee Event Center | Weber State

Built: 1975 Capacity: 11,592

3. Dahlberg Arena | Montana

Built: 1953 Renovated: 1999 Capacity: 7,321

2. Peter W. Stott Athletic Complex/Viking Pavilion | Portland State

Built:1966 Renovated:1984,2002,2012,2018 Capacity: 3,094

1. ICCU Arena | Idaho

Built: 2021 Capacity: 4,200

ChrisAlexBrianMarten
1. ICCU Arena
2. Dahlberg Arena
3. Viking Pavilion
4. Dee Event Center
5. America First Event Center
6. Reese Court
7. Bank of Colorado Arena
8. Reed Gym
9. Brick Breeden Fieldhouse
10. Walkup Skydome
11. Hornets Nest
1. ICCU Arena
2. Viking Pavilion
3. Dee Event Center
4. Dahlberg Arena
5. Reese Court
6. Brick Breeden Fieldhouse
7. America First Event Center
8. Reed Gym
9. Bank of Colorado Arena
10. Walkup Skydome
11. Hornets Nest

1. ICCU Arena
2. Viking Pavilion
3. Dee Event Center
4. Dahlberg Arena
5. America First Event Center
6. Bank of Colorado Arena
7. Reed Gym
8. Reese Court
9. Brick Breeden Fieldhouse
10. Walkup Skydome
11. Hornets Nest
1. ICCU Arena
2. Viking Pavillion
3. Dahlberg Arena
4. Dee Event Center
5. America First Event Center
6. Bank of Colorado Arena
7. Brick Breeden Fieldhouse
8. Reed Gym
9. Reese Court
10. Walkup Skydome
11. Hornets Nest

Big Damm Preview: Game 5 – Portland State vs. Idaho

IT’S HOMECOMING WEEKEND! The Vandals look to pick up their second win of the season when the Portland State Vikings come to the Kibbie Dome.

Last Game:
The Vandals lost to then-#8 UC Davis 27-20, after blowing a 20-13 lead going into the fourth quarter.

Portland State went on the road and beat Southern Utah 20-13.

Last Meeting:
October 12th, 2019 – The Vikings shut out the Vandals 24-0 in Oregon as Mason Petrino and Colton Richardson both threw a pair of interceptions.


Quarterbacks:
In typical Idaho fashion, CJ Jordan was named the starting quarterback against UC Davis, then promptly got hurt on the first drive without ever attempting a pass. Jordan’s shoulder injury is expected to keep him out for a few weeks. Let us know on Twitter if you can correctly guess the last year that a Vandal QB was named the starter and played through the entire conference schedule without injury or substitution.

Zach Borisch continued to do Zach Borisch things, running 10 times for 82 yards and 2 TDs (#LetBorischThrow), highlighted by the 60 yard run to open the scoring on the first drive of the game. Mike Beaudry stepped in off the bench after the Jordan injury and served as the QB for most snaps. Beaudry went 22 for 35 with 255 yards and one INT. Beaudry passed the eye test, completing over 62 percent of his passes in what was one of his better games as a Vandal. Expect to see Beaudry running the offense while Borisch comes in as a change of pace. [editor’s note: Perhaps head coach Paul Petrino noticed how UC Davis’s running quarterback Trent Tompkins shredded the Vandal defense when they had to respect the possibility of the throw. Alas, this is likely just the wistful yearning of a tired editor.]

Portland State’s quarterback situation is more settled than Idaho’s, with Davis Alexander being one of the longest tenured QBs in the Big Sky. On the year, Alexander is completing 58% of his passes (109 for 188) for 1405 yards, 8 TDs, and 6 INTs. His 1405 passing yards is second in the Big Sky Conference. Alexander is also the second leading rusher for the Vikings, with 111 yards and 2 TDs on the ground.

Idaho’s Key Players/Statistics:
Welcome to the Terez Traynor show? Hayden Hatten is typically Beaudry’s favorite receiver, but had just three receptions for fifteen yards in his return after missing the Oregon State game. Traynor had over half of the passing game’s output, with 10 receptions for 131 yards. On the season, Traynor now leads the Vandals with 20 catches and 230 yards, followed closely by Hatten’s 15 catches for 215 yards (in one fewer game.) Roshaun Johnson did not get a carry against the Aggies, but Elisha Cummings proved more than capable in his absence, with 15 carries for 125 yards and an incredible 8.3 yards per carry. Aundre Carter has solidified himself as the short-yardage back, with seven carries for just 12 yards last week, but that did come with a goal-line touchdown.

The Vandal defense put on a show against Ulonzo Gilliam Jr. last week, holding the All-Big Sky Conference caliber running back to just 61 yards on 19 carries. Unfortunately, UC Davis shifted their offense in the fourth quarter and running QB Trent Tompkins put up 85 yards on 13 carries. Fa’Avae Fa’Avae led the defense last week with ten total tackles, while Noah Elliss and Charles Akanno each registered a sack. Tommy McCormick registered two tackles for loss and an interception. Sean and Tommy, the brothers McCormick, are now responsible for two of the three Vandal takeaways this season.

Caleb Lightbourn has continued to be a worthy successor to Cade Coffey, averaging 46 yards per punt against the Aggies, with a long of 67. Unfortunately, the rest of the special teams unit continues to struggle, as yet another kick was blocked last week. Does Alex “The BOAT” Boatman need to brush up his resume and apply to join the coaching staff as a special teams assistant?

Portland State’s Key Players/Statistics:
The Viking offense runs through their dual threat QB with dual first names, but expect to see a heavy dose of running back Malik Walker, who has 73 rushes for 297 yards and four TDs on the season. Walker is also the fourth leading receiver on the team, with 12 receptions for 39 yards. Receivers Beau Kelly, Darien Chase, and Nate Bennett serve as Alexander’s primary targets, with 81 receptions for 1143 yards and seven TDs between them. Kelly paces the group with 33 catches, 486 yards, and four TDs, a top three receiver in the Big Sky in most statistical categories.

Safety Anthony Adams leads the Portland State defense with two INTs and a fumble recovery, while also registering 21 tackles, good for third on the team. Adams was an All-American in virtually every publication in 2019, received countless 2021 preseason accolades, and is on the watchlist for the Buck Buchanan award alongside Vandal linebacker Tre Walker. Defensive tackle VJ Malo leads the Vikings with five and a half sacks (second in the Big Sky Conference) and eight tackles for loss. Linebacker Parker McKenna leads PSU with 39 total tackles.

Punter Seth Vernon’s 48.2 yard average leads the Big Sky Conference, while his nine punts of 50+ yards is tied for first in the conference.

Key to the Game:
Can the Vandal secondary limit Beau Kelly and the rest of the PSU receivers? The front seven should be able to contain the legs of Alexander and Walker, but can the secondary cover long enough to end drives early and often?

Game Predictions:
Producer Dallas: This is it folks. This is the game the entire season hinges on. After hanging close with top-10 UC Davis, a confident win here could be the momentum needed for Idaho to make a stand in the Big Sky. Or, a loss here could make 3-4 wins the ceiling of this season. Initially, I was going to take PSU in a close one, but the rest of the Tubs team talked me into the Vandals. Portland State has never won in Moscow, and that continues as Idaho gets the 21-20 win.
Boatman: Idaho 31-17
Brian: Idaho 24-17
Chris: Idaho 21-20 [editor’s note: Chris’s prediction came before Producer Dammer’s, who should have made his own unique prediction.]

Big Sky Power Rankings Week 6

Reminder this is a “Power Ranking.” It means different things to different people. Some view it as the best team, some view it as hottest team at the moment. At the end of the year, the team that wins the conference may not be No. 1 in our rankings. We had 12 voters this week.

This week [Last Week] | Team | First Place Votes – Points

1. [3] Eastern Washington (12) – 169

Last Week: W Vs #6 Montana 34-28

This Week: @ Northern Colorado

My Ranking: 1

WOW, WOW, WOW! What a show! The wait was worth it. If this truly is a farewell tour, the main event was something to hold onto forever. This will make the best hits album for years to come. The show was so good, maybe this isn’t farewell after all. They have a couple big shows left to maybe show these old souls still have it. That they are more than just their lead guitarist.

2. [1] Montana – 145

Last Week: L @ 28-34 #4 Eastern Washington

This Week: Vs Dixie State

My Ranking: 3

Well shoot. I took Montana in this one and was pretty confident in the pick. Though the one thing I said was Cam Humphrey can’t win this game, and he couldnt. I know Kris Brown was ultimately how it ended, but Humphrey just isn’t a guy to go out and win you a game. Humphrey completed 53% of his passes for 150 yards and a 1 to 1 TD to INT ratio.

Cam didnt lose them the game, he certainly didnt win it either.

That VAUNTED griz defense I thought would give QB Eric Barriere the same types of “fits” Idaho has the past two seasons. (“fits” as in not 400 yards and 4 TDs)

Vs Idaho

2019- Passing: 28/46 365 Yards 2 TDs 1 INT Rushing: 57 Yards 2 TDs 1 Fumble

2020A- Passing: 32/57 339 Yards 2 TDs 1 INT Rushing: 14 Yards 0 TDs

2020B- Passing: 18/38 309 Yards 2 TDs 0 INT Rushing: 54 yards 0 TDs

Vs Montana

2021 – Passing: 26/46 422 Yards 2 TDS 2 INTS Rushing: 41 yards 0 TDs

I guess they kinda did?… But it just wasnt enough.

3. [2] UC Davis – 142

Last Week: W vs Idaho 27-20

This Week: @ Idaho State

My Ranking: 2

UC Davis fans I imagine are okay not being in the top spot after their preformace compared to the ESPN2 showdown. However, #3? My assumption of the 11 other voters is, they rewarded Eastern for the win, didnt want to punish Montana, and the Aggies just played it too close to a team barely in the top 10 of the power rankings.

I made the argument last week in favor of UC Davis having a tougher schedule. Well, what a difference a week can make?! 2 of our top 3 teams are undefeated. Montana (the one with the loss) leads the way in average sagarin ranked opponents, at 130 on average, Easterns’ average opponents ranks 140.75, then UC Davis is a only 193 (out of 258).

Good news for them they only have 1.5 hurdles left to go undefeated.

4. [4] Montana State – 137

Last Week: W vs Northern Colorado 40-7

This Week: Vs Cal Poly

My Ranking 5

You know it is bad when Griz fans were pulling for Montana State. Their opponent last week, Northern Colorado, apparrently ruffled some feathers. People wanted to seem the out of no-where cockiness of the bears cooled down a bit.

The spread was -19.5 Montana State at home. I was one of the people that thought Northern Colorados’ rennassiance was further along and took the spread… Montana State proved they are not.

The Bobcats are sort of sailing under the radar. I think they like it this way. But Bobcat fans beware of flying objects when attending games.

R&R is brought to you by Jeremiah Johnson Brewing The Bobcats weren't able to complete the storybook ending in Frisco against the Bison. We recap the game and share our experiences in Frisco and at the game. Go Cats! Intro music courtesy of Ugly Duckling
  1. National Championship Recap
  2. National Championship Game Preview – North Dakota State
  3. Playoffs with Colter Nuanez of Skyline Sports/ESPN Missoula
  4. The Path to Frisco – North Dakota State
  5. The Path to Frisco – Montana State

5. [5] Weber State – 119

Last Week: W @ Cal Poly 38-7

This Week: Bye

My Ranking: 4

Look for Weber, a backup QB puting up 38 points is a win.

Just werid vibes coming out of Ogden. They are almost in a win or bust situation. They may be able to afford one more loss to a top Big Sky program. But they are running out of statement wins as well. The next 3 weeks are going to be monumental for the Wildcats.

Coming off of the bye, they get Montana State at home which feels like the must win game. Because they follow that up on the road in Cheney. They really need to go 2-0 through that stretch to gurantee playoffs. otherwise it gets iffy and their future may be in others hands. Which is always stressful.

Right now it is a 5 team race for conference title and playoff spots. In 3 weeks it could be narrowed down to 4 teams and some “SadCats” – Hot Take Nate

MEN'S HOOPS: Double Trouble: Wildcats Fall to Two In-State Foes Weber State Weekly

It was a rough week in the #PurplePalace, as the Wildcats fell to in-state rivals Utah State and BYU by double digits. Our panel breaks down the results and what we learned from a difficult week of non-conference play.Then, we're playing Buy or Sell. Hear our panel's men's hoops takes and whether they're buying enthusiastically or selling intrepidly.Special thanks to our sponsor, WildcatRack.com. Visit their website to check out all their latest Wildcat gear and follow them on Facebook or Instagram.Don't forget to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram or join the Wildcat Fans FB group.
  1. MEN'S HOOPS: Double Trouble: Wildcats Fall to Two In-State Foes
  2. WOMEN'S HOOPS: Dual-Threat Daryn: Junior Forward Daryn Hickok
  3. MEN'S HOOPS: Lock Down McEwen: Senior Guard Koby McEwen
  4. VOLLEYBALL: Double Dub Weekend: Wildcats Win 2 Rounds of NIVC
  5. MEN'S HOOPS: Dub Down South: Wildcats Handle the Trailblazers in Saint George

6. [6] Sacramento State – 96

Last Week: Bye Week

This Week: Vs Southern Utah

My Ranking: 10

I seriously dont get it?! We punish teams like Davis for beating Idaho by 7. We punish teams like Weber for losing to Top 10 programs. Yet, 2-2 Sac State with a 2 point win vs 206th ranked Sagarin team and an 8 point win vs 222nd sagarin ranked team, just keep being named the best team outside of the elite teams? PEOPLE, they barely beat the team we ranked last this week! So if Sac State is SOOO good why did we punish Idaho State (fell 3 spots). They fell by a 4th quarter field goal. This wasnt ISU making it look close in garbage time. This was Sac State having to come from behind vs (apparently) the worst team in the Big Sky.

#ComeOnMan

7. [7] Portland State – 92

Last Week:W @ Southern Utah 20-13

This Week: @ Idaho

My Ranking: 6

The love everyone seems to give Sac State, should be given here. Portland State is the team it appears the rest of the Big Sky Podcast Network thinks Sac State is.

QB Davis Alexander is #2 in yards, #4 in TDs.

RB Malik Walker is #7 in yards (Sac State RB not even on list), #2 in TDs

WR Beau Kelly #4 in yards , #2 in catches, #1 in TDs

WR Nate Bennet #6 in yards, #4 in catches, T-#2 in TDs

Yup, I did just take half of Portland States space to continue the tar and feathering of Sac State. Sorry, Colter, they arent quite top 5, but looking to be top 6…ish

8. [t-11] Northern Arizona – 76

Last Week: W vs Idaho State 48-17

This Week: Bye

My Ranking: 8

This team has fluctuated lots this season. Been as high as #6 and as low as #12. Which seems to be fitting honestly as no one seems to have a grip on who they are.

I was celebrity guest host on BSPNS’s NAU Sports Show last week and predicited an Idaho State W, but left door open for NAU win. Classic hedge.

Well NAU players and fans can mail me my crow meal. They were Tiger Kings this weekend.

9. [9] Idaho – 67

Last Week: L @ #7 UC Davis 20-27

This Week: Vs Portland State

My Ranking: 9

They move none and match my ranking. Out of 13 teams the only teams I agree with positioning are #1 Eastern, #8 NAU and #9 Idaho.

I know majority of the eyeballs reading this are Vandals, and probably skipped right on down to this point, and Im sorry.

I know we just hung with the #7 team in the country with legit shot to win. But, we didn’t… Look talent wise we proved we might be top 3 in the conference. Hell, just look at recent draft picks and NFL guys since we rejoined the sky in 2018. In 3 seasons we have 3 guys in NFL and the only Big Sky school with a guy who most likely will be leaving early to be drafted (Tre Walker). The worst part in 2018 all 4 of them were on the team together! in 2019 3 of them were on the team together! How can we not win games with this level of talent?oh wait, Coaching.

I’m starting to think you could go down position matchups every week and pick Idaho in the majority. The one I am starting to think we can no longer check is head coach. I have been a defender of Paul for 8.25 seasons… I can’t anymore. No more excuses. we aren’t Independent, we arent transtioning to Sun Belt, we are recruting to a program kicked out of the Sun Belt, we aren’t transitioning to FCS with less scholarships, we arent getting use to another new conference in the Big Sky, we aren’t in a shortened spring season, we dont have QB issues anymore, we have no more excuses.

We SHOULD have won on saturday, the players did…

10. [8] Northern Colorado – 50

Last Week: L @ Montana State 7-40

This Week: Vs #4 Eastern Washington

My Ranking: 8

Well they lost me money this weekend (*Allegedly). Maybe the bears aren’t as far along as some (maybe just me and Bears fans) thought.

Montana State showed the difference between top flight Big Sky team and the pile up between 11ish and 6.

After that ass kicking, I doubt they are enthused with Eastern coming to town. Going to be a sad homecoming. But seriously, lets dive into this. Who in their right mind schedules Eastern for Homecoming? Like, Why? Do you understand you are suppose to win homecoming? is this concept foreign to you? Are you secretly a NAU grad? A Raiders Fan? Christian McCaffery stole your girl? I dont get it? It really makes me want to break a clipboard and throw it. As a “Souvenir” of course.

11. [t-11] Southern Utah – 42

Last Week: L vs Portland State 13-20

This Week: @ Sacramento State

My Ranking: 12

Please refer to the WAC Podcast Networks coverage of this team.

12. [13] Cal Poly – 25

Last Week: L vs #19 Weber State 7-38

This Week: @ #10 Montana State

My Ranking: 13

I mean, not sure how they moved up. They are my 13, though maybe I should just permenently make SUU my 13, becasue screw SUU. (Exept their Social Media team, they are fire. Please dont roast me)

13. [10] Idaho State – 23

Last Week: L @ Northern Arizona 17-48

This Week: Vs UC Davis

My Ranking:11

Well Bengals, You made me look like a fool. Fool me once shame on me, Fool me can’t get fooled again.

*** As always I”m not an journalist so, take your gramatical error comments, & put them in a beg some-Where. Hope you enjoyed the content regarless if you maid it too dis disclaimer 

😉

Who Will Win The Big Sky?

The Big Sky is one of the deepest conference top to bottom. Predicting a winner is difficult. Last year was my first attempt to take emotion out of it and use analytics to predict the winner. How I did this was combination of a “True Skill Ranking” and “Strength of Schedule” calculation.

Before we get into this year. It is a fair question to ask, How did last year go? How accurate is this? It is a little difficult to compare as I originally completed predicitons before five Big Sky Schools opted out of Spring. Lets look anyway with removing the teams that did not play and adjusting.

Predicted FinishTeamPredicted RecordActual FinishTeamActual Record
1Weber State6-01Weber State5-0
2E.Washington5-12E.Washington5-1
t3UC Davis4-2t3UC Davis3-2
t3N.Arizona4-2t3N.Arizona3-2
5Idaho2-4t5Idaho2-4
t-6Idaho State1-5t5Idaho State2-4
t-6Cal Poly1-57S.Utah1-5
8S.Utah0-68Cal Poly0-3

I will let you all determine if this was succesful or not, especially with last springs circumstances. But at least now you know how it did.

This season will be a test as all 13 current Big Sky Football Conference teams are playing. This is also only looking at the conference schedule. The out of conference schedule has not been included. Also the database used to calculate my True Skill rankings are not released yet. These prediciton are stricly of SOS and leave room for updating before conference kickoff.

Before we get into predicitons, lets take a look at some of the oddities of the 2nd annual Strength of Schedule Tub Table.

Obviously this system is not perfect, I am the first to acknowledge this. As Weber State (Preseason pick to win conference) benefits from not playing themselves and vice versa Northern Colorado and Cal Poly are punished for not playing themselves.

That being said it is the second time in as many seasons Weber State has the path of least resistance to win the championship. Montana State and Eastern Washington have a weird scenario too. Eastern Washington has the toughest schedule at home (Montana,Idaho,Weber & Montana State). While Montana State has toughest road schedule (Portland State, Weber State, Eastern Washington & Montana). Then they swap and Eastern has the least difficult road schedule. While Montana State has by far the easiest schedule at home. sidenote, I honestly wonder how season ticket sales are going with no Choate, 18 months of no football and a lackluster home schedule.

If you are looking for this years dark horse, Northern Arizona harbors 3rd easiest schedule and only by 2 points. The Standard Deviation for strength of schedule is 9.4. Being only 2 points off from easiest schedule is a big benefit to the lumberjacks of Flagstaff. To their defense, Shaun Rainey of SWX Montana and Colter Nuanez of Skyline Sports have been high on Portland State, Even saying they are top four in big sky. They do have 5th easiest schedule in the conference and could be one of those annual dark horses the big sky seems to get every year.

Okay enough of me nerding out over schedule strength statistics that really dont mean anything once the ball is kicked off to what you are all here for… using those useless statistics to make analytical predictions for each team in the conference.

t13. Cal Poly 0-8

t13. Northern Colorado 0-8

11. Southern Utah 1-7

t10. Portland State 2-6

t10. Idaho State 2-6

8. Idaho 3-5

t5.Northern Arizona 5-3

t5. Montana State 5-3

t5. UC Davis 5-3

t3. Eastern Washington 7-1

t3. Sac State 7-1

t1. Montana 8-0

t1. Weber State 8-0

Reminder these are not my predictions. You can tune into our live youtube show August 10th around 8 PT with Skyline Sports Colter Nuanez to hear how myself and the rest of the team think conference season will go.

*** As always I”m not an journalist so, take your gramatical error comments, & put them in a beg some-Where. Hope you enjoyed the content regarless if you maid it too dis disclaimer 😉

Tubs Preseason Big Sky Poll

We submitted three polls to the conference office. Here is how the three of us voted and why.

Chris
Brian
Dallas
1Weber StateMontanaWeber State
2EWUMontana StateEWU
3MontanaWeber StateMontana
4UC DavisEWUSac State
5Montana StateSac StateMontana State
6NAUUC DavisUC Davis
7Idaho StateIdahoIdaho State
8IdahoIdaho StateNAU
9SUUUNCIdaho
10Sac StateSUUSUU
11Cal PolyPortland StatePortland State
12UNCNAUUNC
13Portland StateCal PolyCal Poly

For those of you that read our Preseason All-Conference Team post you can see our picks for All-Conference lead to our opinions on our polls.

Further Explanations

Chris:

  • Weber State at 1 – The Wildcats return possibly the best Secondary in the FCS. Three members of the secondary made our All-Tubs Team. Bronson Barron (technically a true freshman still) had barely been on campus and had to compete for starting job last season. That is not the case this fall, he will be receiving all the reps. Pair that with former Jerry Rice Award winner Josh Davis and an emerging stable of backs returning. The Achilles heel of this program, the offense, has to take a step forward. Even if the offense doesn’t improve, they have still won four straight Big Sky titles. Why would I bet against them?

  • Montana at 3 – Look even with some “?” still at QB. This team returns a lot of talent. How bad could it be when you get to throw to Maybe the best WR in the FCS, Sammy Akem. If the QB works out, they could easily win the conference. But right now with Weber returning Bronson & Eastern returning EB3, I gave them the SMALL nod over the Griz. Its going to be a close race this year.

  • Sacramento State at 10 – I understand I’m sticking my neck out with this one. I just think the 2019 season was a flash in the pan. I expect this team to be closer to their 42-28 home playoff loss to start the playoffs, more then the 49-22 win vs the Griz. The Hornets in my opinion benefited greatly from being a sleeper until about half way through the 2019 season, an out of nowhere QB (who has since transferred out) and no one having tape on first time head ball coach Troy Taylor. I expect them to struggle early and maybe make a charge late. Are they the 10th best team in conference probably not, probably a bit better. But weeks 1 thru 6 I expect them to play below where most people have them. Most throw out the easy schedule this year as a reason to have them high. I think the easy schedule will catch them sleep walking with rust early. Though lighting can strike the same spot twice…

Brian:

  • Weber State at 3 – Defending Big Sky champion Weber State (finally) looks vulnerable. The Wildcats won a single spring game by a margin greater than a touchdown–with all of those nail biters coming against teams that will be picked in the bottom half of this fall’s season–but Weber’s schedule, and Jay Hill’s tendency to just never lose games he shouldn’t, makes a 6-2 (in conference) floor all but locked in.

  • Idaho at 7 – This vote was a strict judgement of talent–which should put Idaho not in the top tier of the conference, but close enough to talk yourself into yet another but maybe this year discussion.

    Which is lunacy.

    We all know the Idaho blueprint from the previous three years: stay competitive at home, but faceplant on the road. Hang with, or knock off a playoff-level team, then stumble in comical fashion against the Northern Colorados, or Northern Arizonas occupying league’s bottom tier. Never mind that Idaho has its toughest league schedule since rejoining the Big Sky. 

    So yes: in my written-in-blood preseason poll, Idaho sits at number seven. And yes: the moment my poll was officially sent, I could not believe their slot was higher than ten.

  • Northern Colorado at 9 – Consider Northern Colorado a composite character of Idaho, Idaho State, Southern Utah, and Northern Arizona: it’s an absolute crap shoot rating any of those teams above each other. Before the Bears land higher than ninth, we’ll need to see the fruits of Coach McCaffrey produce. The talent influx following McCaffrey alone will make Northern Colorado at least good enough to spoil someone else’s playoff hopes, but with the promising spring efforts from other projected lower-tier teams, there’s too crowded a field of candidates to repeat the out-of-nowhere rises of UC Davis and Sacramento State to rate Northern Colorado much higher.   

Dallas:

  • Eastern Washington at 2 – Eric Barriere is one of the best players in the entire FCS, and when you have a quarterback like him running the show, you’re going to have at least a puncher’s chance in every game. Yes, their questionable defense allowed 35 straight points in the first round of the spring playoffs to a weakened North Dakota State. Yes, the receivers drop more passes than they should. Yes, they have an extremely tough conference schedule this year. But, their three toughest games (Montana, Montana State, Weber State) are all in Cheney this year and I’d expect they win two of the three to keep themselves just behind Weber in the conference standings. Even in their last true down year (2015, when Vernon Adams transferred to play his final year at Oregon), they tied for fourth in conference, going 5-3 with two losses to ranked teams.

  • UC Davis at 6 – UC Davis has a deep cast of receivers, a solid defense (as Vandal fans likely remember), and one of the best running backs in the conference. QB Hunter Rodrigues had 21 FCS passes to his name coming into 2021 and may have benefited more from the spring season than any other athlete. So why do I have them sixth? Weber State, Eastern Washington, and the Montana schools certainly look better on paper and should all slot in as top five finishers, even if they trade losses around. I don’t see the Aggies beating Weber State (and yes, I know they had a double digit lead on the Wildcats last season) or Eastern Washington. Even if they beat Sacramento State in the Causeway Classic to finish the year, I don’t think a game in hand on the Hornets helps, courtesy of the absolute gift of a schedule Sacramento State got this year. Nothing against UC Davis, but a top five finish doesn’t seem to be in the cards.

  • Idaho at 9 – Every year it seems I talk myself into Idaho finally becoming a bully in the Big Sky. Take one look at the schedule and you’ll realize why I’m not doing that this year. The Vandals could be favored in three of their four home conference games, but even if they won out at home with an upset of Montana, they will not be favored in a single road game this season. I don’t think they win a single game outside of Moscow this year, even without Paul Petrino’s track record of failure away from the Kibbie Dome. There’s plenty of talent on this team, just like there was in the spring, but I don’t see any reason to believe that it magically clicks this season. 4-4 in conference is the ceiling for this team if things go well, and 2-6 is certainly on the table. We’re looking at another long year.